Archives for weather



Riots and Rain

May Day has already brought some rioting to San Francisco, and as Dashiell Bennett‘s Atlantic Wire piece points out, New York is bracing for the same:

Tensions are likely to be pretty high, especially in New York City, [where] some leading organizers were reportedly visited at home by New York police and FBI agents yesterday who interviewed them about their plans. (The high temperatures and 80% chance of rain won’t help either.)

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What If It Rained on the Tea Party Parade?

My latest Bloomberg View column with Betsey is all about the Tea Party.  Well, actually, it’s really about some superb research about the Tea Party, by Andreas MadestamDaniel ShoagStan Veuger and David Yanagizawa-Drott.  Their big question: “Do Political Protests Matter? Evidence from the Tea Party.”  We know that lots of people turn out to Tea Party rallies. But does it really change anything? Read More »



Collateral Damage from the Japanese Tsunami Disaster?

A reader named Mark Weitzman calls our attention to a Yomiuri Shimbun article with a provocative claim:

Quake efforts blamed for rise in snow mishaps

This winter’s heavier snowfall has seen more than 500 people across seven prefectures die or become injured in snow-related accidents, including cases in which they had been trying to remove snow, it has been learned.

People are trying to remove snow themselves using shovels and other tools because of delays in municipal-led snow removal. The delays have been caused by a shortage of dump trucks–many of which are being used in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake for reconstruction work–to transport snow.

According to data compiled by the Akita, Aomori, Ishikawa, Nagano, Niigata, Toyama and Yamagata prefectural governments, the death toll from such snow-related accidents had reached 31 as of Wednesday, while 479 people had sustained injuries.

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Football Freakonomics: The Frozen Conundrum

Well, it’s January. And even though my team stumbled into inglorious, injury-plagued defeat, the most exciting football is yet to be played — some of it in very cold weather.

So we thought it was time to take a look at the various effects, and hidden side, of cold weather. That’s the focus of our latest installment of Football Freakonomics.

It is no secret that weather, cold or hot, has a significant effect on athletic performance. I don’t want to start an argument here about what constitutes a sport and what doesn’t, but I will say that the most frustrating six hours of my life was spent on a lake in upstate New York trying to coax some walleye through a hole in the ice. Brrr!  Read More »



An Algorithm that Can Predict Weather a Year in Advance

In our latest podcast, “The Folly of Prediction,” we poke fun at the whole notion of forecasting. The basic gist is: whether it’s Romanian witches or Wall Street quant wizards, though we love to predict things — we’re generally terrible at it. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.)

But there is one emerging tool that’s greatly enhancing our ability to predict: algorithms. Toward the end of the podcast, Dubner talks to Tim Westergren, a co-founder of Pandora Radio, about how the company’s algorithm is able to predict what kind of music people want to hear, by breaking songs down to their basic components. We’ve written a lot about algorithms, and the potential they have to vastly change our life through customization, and perhaps satisfy our demand for predictions with some robust results.

One of the first things that comes to mind when people hear the word forecasting is the weather. Over the last few decades, we’ve gotten much better at predicting the weather. But what if through algorithms, we could extend our range of accuracy, and say, predict the weather up to a year in advance? That’d be pretty cool, right? And probably worth a bit of money too.

That’s essentially what the folks at a small company called Weather Trends International are doing. The private firm based in Bethlehem, PA, uses technology first developed in the early 1990s, to project temperature, precipitation and snowfall trends up to a year ahead, all around the world, with more than 80% accuracy. Read More »



Freakonomics Poll: When It Comes to Predictions, Whom Do You Trust?

Our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “The Folly of Prediction,” is built around the premise that humans love to predict the future, but are generally terrible at it. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript here.)

There are a host of professions built around predicting some future outcome: from predicting the score of a sports match, to forecasting the weather for the weekend, to being able to tell what the stock market is going to do tomorrow. But is anyone actually good at it? Read More »



Study Shows Animals Starting to Move to Higher Latitudes, Elevations

A new study out of the University of York shows that animals are moving to higher latitudes and elevations as a result of global warming. The research, which is a meta-analysis of previous individual studies, finds that about 1,300 species are shifting habitat faster than had previously been assumed. But they’re not all moving toward cooler temperatures. The data are mostly skewed toward Europe and North America. Here’s the abstract:

The distributions of many terrestrial organisms are currently shifting in latitude or elevation in response to changing climate. Using a meta-analysis, we estimated that the distributions of species have recently shifted to higher elevations at a median rate of 11.0 meters per decade, and to higher latitudes at a median rate of 16.9 kilometers per decade. These rates are approximately two and three times faster than previously reported. The distances moved by species are greatest in studies showing the highest levels of warming, with average latitudinal shifts being generally sufficient to track temperature changes. However, individual species vary greatly in their rates of change, suggesting that the range shift of each species depends on multiple internal species traits and external drivers of change. Rapid average shifts derive from a wide diversity of responses by individual species.

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Baseball’s Rainy Season

Major League Baseball is off to one of its wettest starts ever. The league came into this week having already postponed 26 games, which is 6 more than were washed out all of last season. According to Dailybaseballdata.com:

From 2006-2009, each season had from 33-38 rainouts. But 26 through mid-May puts us on a pace to wash out 100 games this year!

Today’s weather forecast and schedule looks to spell more rainouts. Read More »